WELCOME to Connected Rights, your shock to the system of digital rights news and analysis.
Enjoy this newsletter? Forward it to a friend or get them to sign up. I’m David Meyer, aka @superglaze on Twitter and @davidmeyerwrites on Facebook. Don’t forget to check out the Connected Rights website and download a copy of my book, Control Shift: How Technology Affects You and Your Rights. Miro peicak!
Oh hai! This is the 100th edition of Connected Rights. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it. Or at least that you’ve learned how to say “welcome” in 100 languages.
FACEBUCKS – SORRY, ZUCK BUCKS – SORRY, LIBRA is here! Well, almost. Sometime next year, Facebook will begin rolling out its long-awaited cryptocurrency, which is… let me hand over to the FT for this one: “a glorified exchange traded fund which uses blockchain buzzwords to neutralise the regulatory impact of coming to market without a licence as well as to veil the disproportionate influence of Facebook in what it hopes will eventually become a global digital reserve system. (Boldness in business award incoming.)” Yay!
So, what about the privacy aspects then? Calibra, Facebook’s digital wallet for Libra (and also a brand of Czech dog food), will be added to Messenger and WhatsApp in 2020, and will also be available as a standalone app. According to Facebook, it’s the solution for all the “unbanked” people out there, and it will use “all the same verification and anti-fraud processes that banks and credit cards use”, while also featuring “automated systems that will proactively monitor activity to detect and prevent fraudulent behaviour”.
Here’s the bit you’ve been waiting for: “Aside from limited cases, Calibra will not share account information or financial data with Facebook or any third party without customer consent. This means Calibra customers’ account information and financial data will not be used to improve ad targeting on the Facebook family of products. The limited cases where this data may be shared reflect our need to keep people safe, comply with the law and provide basic functionality to the people who use Calibra.”
Libra chief David Marcus (an Aries) told my colleague Robert Hackett: “There will be separation of data… People don’t want their financial data and social data commingled.” There will be no ad-targeting based on Calibra financial information “without customer consent”.
So, what will that consent look like and will it pass data-protection-law perspective muster, particularly in the EU? And why would anyone trust Facebook, of all companies, to keep its privacy promises about the use of their financial histories?
FACEBOOK EMAILS, DUG UP UNDER the FTC’s probe into whether the company broke its 2012 consent decree, apparently show that Mark Zuckerberg was connected with Facebook’s privacy violations. Colour me astonished!
TWITTER HAS LOST ANOTHER GERMAN CASE regarding account suspensions under its anti-election-interference rules. This time it’s been ordered to unblock the account of someone who trolled the far-right AfD party by saying its voters should sign their ballots.
AMAZON IS BEING SUED – twice, in separate US states – over the allegations that it records children’s voices without their consent or that of their parents, and that it stores the voiceprints indefinitely, without allowing people to fully delete the information. The plaintiffs are 8 and 10 years old (obviously with a little help from their parents). You can find the suits here.
Amazon sells a “kids edition” of the Echo Dot smart speaker, and children’s advocates have previously asked the FTC to investigate just what happens to all that juicy data. Fun awaits, no doubt, but for now, just don’t stick an internet-connected speaker into your kids’ rooms, OK?
AXEL VOSS, THE CHAMPION OF THE EU COPYRIGHT DIRECTIVE, on Friday retweeted an apparently baseless allegation against Google, Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center and Julia Reda, the directive’s loudest piratical opponent during its passage through the legislative process.
The tweet, by Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker guitarist David Lowery, claimed that Reda – now no longer an MEP – was collecting a “Google payoff” when she took a position at the “Google funded” centre. Only problem is that Google’s money specifically funds the centre’s research into takedown requests, while Reda is going to be working in the rather separate field of open-access academic publishing. Voss isn’t exactly covering himself with glory here.
ACTIVISTS IN THE HONG KONG PROTESTS have apparently been organising their activities using the Telegram encrypted-messaging app (which is not trusted by many in the cryptography community, but there you go). So it was no surprise to see Telegram come under what appears to have been a denial-of-service attack from, presumably, China during the protests.
“Historically, all state actor-sized DDoS (200-400 Gb/s of junk) we experienced coincided in time with protests in Hong Kong (coordinated on @telegram). This case was not an exception,” tweeted Pavel Durov, the service’s founder.
Meanwhile, AFP issued an interesting report about the methods protestors have been using to go “digitally dark”: “Many said they turned off their location tracking on their phones and beefed up their digital privacy settings before joining protests, or deleted conversations and photos on social media and messaging apps after they left the demonstrations. There were unusually long lines at ticket machines in the city underground metro stations as protesters used cash to buy tickets rather than tap-in with the city’s ubiquitous Octopus cards – whose movements can be more easily tracked.”
“In a city where WhatsApp is usually king, protesters have embraced the encrypted messaging app Telegram in recent days, believing it offers better cyber protection and also because it allows larger groups to co-ordinate.”